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Project duration 01.01.2012 - 31.12.2014

Examination of Test-fairness of Selected Large Scale Assessments for Core Student Sub-populations

The project was focused on systematically testing the test fairness of reading test items from the major school performance surveys for groups of students who differ on the basis of the characteristics (a) gender, (b) social situation, (c) migration status and (d) school form attendance. There was also a special focus on comparing different methods that can be used in this context.

Project description

The central aim of the BMBF-funded project was to re-analyse the tests used in large-scale assessments with regard to their fairness to key student subgroups. The competence tests used in IGLU 2001, IGLU 2006 and IGLU 2011 as well as those used in PISA 2000 and PISA 2009 were considered. This selection allowed a pupil-group-differentiated consideration of reading literacy on the one hand of children in the school year before the important transition from primary to secondary school and on the other hand the consideration of the age group of learners at the end of compulsory schooling. To test fairness to different sub-populations, learners were distinguished on the basis of the following five characteristics: (a) gender, (b) socio-economic status, family migration background in relation to (c) country of birth and (d) language requirements, and (e) school type affiliation. In addition, previously missing analyses on interactions between characteristics were also planned.


The central results are that, in line with the hypothesis, a specific weakness was found in tasks with an open response format for children from socially weaker backgrounds, children with a migration background, boys and children from school types without the Abitur option. This pattern of findings was examined in greater depth by supplementary analyses on the role of motivation. These made it clear that children with low reading motivation show specific weaknesses in open response formats. For the item characteristics of a required demanding reading process and the text genre informative text, however, no or only isolated effects on the relative performance of groups of pupils could be identified within the framework of the project.

Lead researcher at IFS

Project management

  • Dr. Franziska Schwabe

Publication of the results


  • Schwabe, F., & McElvany, N. (accepted). DIF for Native and non-Native Speaking Students in Reading Tests with Mixed Item Formats. Paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), 27. April - 1. May in San Francisco, California.
  • Schwabe, F., McElvany, N., El-Khechen, W., & Gebauer, M. M. (2012). Testfairness für Schülerinnen und Schüler mit Migrationshintergrund - Analysen eines Wortschatztests.  Vortrag auf der 77. Tagung der Arbeitsgruppe für Empirische Pädagogische Forschung (AEPF), 10. - 12. September 2012 in Bielefeld.
  • Schwabe, F., Gebauer, M. M., El-Khechen, W., Ünlü, A., & McElvany, N. (2012). Fairness of Language Tests for Students from Various Linguistic Backgrounds. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), 13.-17. April in Vancouver, Canada.


  • Schwabe, F. & Gebauer, M. M. (2013). (Test-)Fairness - eine Herausforderung an standardisierte Leistungsdiagnostik. In: N. McElvany, M. M. Gebauer, W. Bos & H. G. Holtappels (Hrsg.), Sprachliche, kulturelle und soziale Heterogenität in der Schule als Herausforderung und Chance der Schulentwicklung. IFS-Jahrbuch der Schulentwicklung, Bd. 17 (S. 217-236). Weinheim: Juventa


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Location & approach

The most convenient highway exits are on the B 1/A 40 (Dortmund-Barop) (closer to the North Campus) and on the A45 (Dortmund-Eichlinghofen). The university is signposted at both exits. In the local road network you will find signs to Campus Nord, where the Campus Treff is also located. From Emil-Figge-Strasse, entrance no. 18 and from Vogelspothsweg entrance no. 23 lead to parking spaces near the venue.

From Dortmund main station, take the S-Bahn "S1" in the direction of Solingen on track 7 to the stop "Dortmund-Universität" (price level A). The S-Bahn runs every 15 minutes during peak hours on weekdays and takes about 6 minutes. From Düsseldorf, the S-Bahn runs every 30 minutes. Directly at the S-Bahn station you will find the CDI building, which houses the Center for Research on Education and School Development.

One of the university's landmarks is the H-Bahn, which has two terminuses on the North Campus. One is located directly above the S-Bahn station and is easily accessible from it by elevators. The other is located in the center of Campus North at the bridge between the University Library and the Mensa, right next to the Audimax. The H-Bahn runs from here to the South Campus and the Eichlinghofen district.

Dortmund has an airport connected with some destinations in Central Europe. There are regular flights, for example, to Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, Katowice, Krakow, Leipzig-Halle, London, Munich, Nuremberg, Paris, Poznan, Stuttgart, Vienna and Zurich. For the approximately 20 kilometers from the Dortmund airport to the campus, you can take the bus to the main train station and from there the S-Bahn. Faster is usually the use of a cab. Far more international flight connections are offered by the Rhine-Ruhr Airport in Düsseldorf, about 60 kilometers away, which can be reached directly by S-Bahn from the university station.